Climate Change

From concrete to ethereal: lessons from the road

BY CLAIRE MARTINI

The Uplift team has returned home from the first round of community conversations. We owe a big “thank you” to those who contributed to the discussion, and we’re inspired to see the broad range of youth-led climate work happening already across the Colorado Plateau!

In Prescott, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Durango, Moab, and Salt Lake City, the climate priorities communities identified were fairly consistent even as the organizing approaches and individuals varied. Young people spoke with care about water use and protection, curbing fossil fuel extraction, protecting wild and sacred spaces, and supporting sustainable communities. Many expressed concern about a non-receptive political climate at a local, regional, and national level. Read more about Uplift’s community conversations, from a reporter’s perspective.

What to do about it? Solutions may lie in ideas ranging from concrete to ethereal: education, networking, creativity, art, protest, community, uncertainty, democracy, affordable housing, restoration, language, traditional knowledge, and more.

Myriad young people are already fighting the good fight. For the people we spoke with, work to address the climate conundrum ranged from protesting at BLM lease auctions to building affordable and sustainable housing. They’re already using innovative ways to reach people, from putting art and creativity at the center, to enhancing inter-generational collaboration.

Here's where Uplift comes in: as a connector between various groups and individuals working across the expanse of the Colorado Plateau.

Meetings were best attended when we had personal connections or made contact with existing networks, and we learned about the areas where we have more work to do building relationships and community. As a group, we aim to highlight and support the amazing work already taking place on the ground, and weave it into a larger story for our region. If you have meaningful opportunities for young people to speak up and engage, whether organizing events, campaigns, rallies, or something else, please let us know and we’ll send it out to our networks! To stay connected on social media, you can find us on Facebook and Instagram.

Looking forward, we’d love for you to join us at the conference August 18-20 in the San Juan National Forest outside Durango, Colorado.

As you probably already suspect, this isn’t your typical “conference.” It’s a celebration of what’s at stake. Uplifters can plan on camping amidst the ponderosa pines for three days of panel discussions, storytelling, and regional break-out groups to help strengthen the work you’re doing, or give you the tools and connections to dive in. We hope you’ll share your presence and ideas at Uplift this August. Please get in touch, because we can’t wait to work together and build community across this wild home of ours.

(If you need support to attend, please let us know, as limited scholarships for registration or travel are available.)

Story: The Most Powerful Renewable Energy

by Brooke Larsen

Storytelling is easier at Kane Ranch—an old homestead nestled in the vast House Rock Valley on the North Rim. The Vermilion Cliffs urge you to speak from the heart, welcome vulnerability, and respect deep time. At the Uplift planning retreat this past November, oil lamps flickered as the Uplift leadership team shared the origins of their love for the Colorado Plateau and an unyielding passion to protect their home.  Story was the focus: we grew closer by sharing our  story of self, the story of us and the story of now.

Recognizing the importance of storytelling for the climate justice movement, Uplift seeks to share climate stories from young people across the Colorado Plateau. In preparation for the Uplift Climate Conference this August in Durango, Colorado, a group of young organizers from Uplift will be traveling from April 29-May 16 holding community conversations across the Colorado Plateau. We want to learn, what does this region mean to you? What agitates you to act on climate?  What are your hopes? What do you love too much to lose?

My climate story is one of self-preservation. My family has called the Colorado Plateau home for six generations. The forests of the Wasatch and the red rock of Southern Utah are my spiritual refuge and teacher of humility. What do I love too much to lose? Burnt orange sand. Rivers that run red. Coyote tracks. Sticky sandstone beneath my soles. Slot canyons with unknown stories. Forgiving aspens. Pink skies at dawn and dusk. Solitude. Vulnerability. Wildness. My self.

A dear friend once told me he could see it in my eyes—they come alive in the red rock wilderness. As the lands and people around me grow increasingly tamed, I fear I will lose my own wild, human spirit. Every new cut, spill, scathe on the red rock leaves a scar on my heart. Every year we tolerate air quality along the Wasatch Front that puts children and the elderly in the hospital and blurs the view of the peaks that ground us in place, I feel trapped in a much more deadly smog—the smog of apathy, greed and injustice.

However, story has power to clear the smog. Our personal stories motivate us, but our shared story sustains us. Climate justice is deeply personal yet so universal—we all have a climate story even if we haven’t articulated it yet. In Uplift, young people find a community that dares to speak from the heart. We howl. We howl with the understanding that we are the daughters and sons of the Coyote Clan.

The organizers of Uplift feel a fierce sense of urgency. As Uplift Coordinator Claire Martini says, “Climate change is the biggest threat to a livable future in the region.” We seek to create a united climate action community across the Colorado Plateau that demands youth voices be heard. We see story sharing as a critical first step. Because it is story that unites us. It is story that makes us a movement, a community, a force.

To share your climate story and connect with other young desert dwellers, find a climate conversation near you. For more information, email uplift@grandcanyontrust.org or follow us on Facebook for important updates!